Dr. Coby Webb: “If your plate is full — get a bigger plate”

“It doesn’t hurt to try.” — I always felt that I needed to try. This philosophy was important whenever I received a missing person call and I was called upon to respond. I never turned down a call out even when I thought it was outside my dog’s capabilities. I always tried and found my K9 partner […]

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“It doesn’t hurt to try.” — I always felt that I needed to try. This philosophy was important whenever I received a missing person call and I was called upon to respond. I never turned down a call out even when I thought it was outside my dog’s capabilities. I always tried and found my K9 partner had the same motto! We surprised ourselves when we thought there would be no trail, but then we were, in fact, able to track someone and help locate a missing person. It doesn’t hurt to try because you can never be sure of the outcome ahead of time.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Coby Webb. Dr. Webb is a nationally known Police Captain, and accomplished handler & trainer of bloodhounds and other search-dog breeds.Her law enforcement career spans over two decades. Specific to K9 work, Dr. Webb has served as a handler for Bloodhounds that are on the FBI’s call-out list, patrol dogs and narcotic dogs. A recognized court expert in scent discrimination, Dr. Webb is consulted on hundreds of high-profile cases regarding tracking evidence. She holds Instructor, Evaluator, and Judge Certifications for tracking/trailing for all dog breeds and is the only female instructor with the National Police Bloodhound Association. Awards received by Dr. Webb include Officer of the Year, Distinguished Service Medal, California Peace Officers Association’s Officer of Distinction, Hero’s Award and AKC Honorable Mention two years in a row. Webb earned a Doctorate Degree in Management in 2010. It is during this period that she invented the Find’em Scent Safe This scent collection and storage system isintended to assist a search dog team with an uncontaminated scent article of a missing person. Based in Southern California, Dr. Webb is a mother of twins who raise their own bloodhounds.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I always wanted to be a K9 handler. My ultimate goal was to work in law enforcement. I grew up with a sweet, loving chocolate lab named “Smiley,” and it was from that point on that I wanted to find a job where I could go to work every day with a dog. I have always been drawn to helping people and making a difference, particularly in situations when there is a sense of urgency and time is of the essence. I knew what I wanted to do. It was just a matter of figuring out how to achieve it. Once I got into law enforcement and became a K9 handler/trainer, I experienced many positive outcomes in terms of locating lost or missing persons. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of dinner, shopping, or sleeping. Whenever dispatch called me to search for a lost or missing person, my dog and I would always arrive on the scene quickly. Unfortunately, there were many occasions when we couldn’t find someone, and that bothered me deeply. I hated driving home knowing someone was still missing. I wondered how I could have done things differently? This is when I realized the lack of a good scent article hindered many of those searches.

Through my K9 career, I’ve had the great fortune to work on hundreds of missing person cases with exceptionally trained tracking/trailing dogs that scent discriminate. In these instances, a dog is given a scent article from the person you want to track. Just how every person is distinguished by their fingerprint, each person has their own unique smell. A dog’s nose is highly sensitive, so it can identify the scent of each individual. This can also be a hurdle. Most scent articles are contaminated, and this means more than one person’s scent is on any individual item. For example, I do the laundry in my house, so my scent is on everything from washing and folding the clothes.

I saw how poor scent items prevented a dog needed from being successful.

I recently launched a product called Find’em™ Scent Safe, a unique scent collection and storage system. The Scent Safe is intended to assist a search dog team with a viable, uncontaminated scent article of a missing person, regardless if they are lost or facing a medical emergency. I’m a firm believer that all family members should secure their scent identity. This is also a proactive way to protect children with medical issues such as Autism, older adults with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as hunters, hikers, and nature lovers. This is very similar to the mindset behind owning insurance or doing anything else annually to ensure peace of mind. The hope, of course, is that it is never needed. But if the situation is warranted, having an uncontaminated scent item to give to law enforcement dog/handler teams is a huge leap forward. The dog can provide direction for other resources to begin searching while a dog team is deployed. This saves time in locating loved ones.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m the only female bloodhound trainer/handler affiliated with the National Police Bloodhound Association in the country. In 2018, nearly 13 percent of full-time law enforcement officers were female, while 87 percent of law enforcement officers were male. This disparity clearly shows law enforcement in the United States is a male-dominated profession, but despite those unfavorable numbers for females, I’ve enjoyed a productive and fulfilling career spanning nearly 30 years. At this very moment, I’m in the process of disrupting the way missing person cases are handled through the application of the aforementioned product Find’em Scent Safe. I’m trying to help families be proactive and partner with first responders to help locate their lost/missing loved ones. Usually, law enforcement is known as a reactionary entity. When 911 is called, law enforcement officials respond. I’ve wanted to change that model and build more of a partnership and share information with the end goal of making a difference together in our communities across the country. It’s critical for all of us to recognize the importance of positive change and empower families, so they know exactly what first responders need to be successful in the search for a lost or missing loved one. There are few better outcomes in life than seeing people reunited after a period of unintentionally being separated. Those situations are highly charged emotionally, and they occur, in large part, when that unique, uncontaminated human scent exists for the dogs to follow.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I remember early in my career when I first talked to my commander about the idea of launching a bloodhound unit. He said in order to start such a unit, he wanted me to prove the dogs could be reliable, needed, and a legitimate way to help finding lost or missing people. My commander also allowed me to volunteer outside work to help prove those three prerequisites. Ultimately, this opportunity changed the trajectory of my career since I was able to prove a bloodhound is an invaluable resource when it comes to finding lost or missing people.

Looking back now, I realize what a big deal this was. Law enforcement does not like change. It often exhibits an old school, military-style leadership with adherence to the motto “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. I was a 28-year-old, 5’4” blonde female officer wanting to implement change within a culture that was typically used to telling people what to do and having them fall in line. This was an uphill challenge, and for that commander not to blow me off and instead take me seriously, was an enormous accomplishment early in my career.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“You have nothing to lose.” — You never have anything to lose when you try to improve your profession. I always tested for promotions and never expected to be promoted early in my career. I had nothing to lose but try. I was able to gain feedback about my weaknesses and found ways to improve rather than stay complacent. This also carried over to when I started the bloodhound program in a large Southern California police agency. I had nothing to lose by attempting to start a new program.

“It doesn’t hurt to try.” — I always felt that I needed to try. This philosophy was important whenever I received a missing person call and I was called upon to respond. I never turned down a call out even when I thought it was outside my dog’s capabilities. I always tried and found my K9 partner had the same motto! We surprised ourselves when we thought there would be no trail, but then we were, in fact, able to track someone and help locate a missing person. It doesn’t hurt to try because you can never be sure of the outcome ahead of time.

“The worst that could happen is that you own a bloodhound!” — I’d venture to say every person has a fear of failing or being embarrassed. Sometimes I’d worry that tracking a missing person in a heavily populated urban area would be too hard for a bloodhound. With a solid foundation of training and my desire to make a difference, the worst that would happen is that I own a Bloodhound as a pet. It all ties back to the importance of trying.

How are you going to shake things up next?

As we’re on the verge of beginning a new decade, I want to keep going full steam ahead in my personal journey of finding lost/missing persons and reuniting them with their families and loved ones. I am feeling terrific both physically and mentally, and God willing, I will be in a position to help others locate lost and missing people for years to come. I also want to see Find’em Scent Safe kits in every household across the country, so I will work my hardest to see that happen!

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

There is not one specific book, podcast or talk that has had a deep impact on my thinking. The person who has, however, had the biggest impact on how I think is my father. He is my best friend and always open to listening to my ideas. We like to talk and think things over together before embarking on any kind of plan or action.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want all families to know how hard we as first responders want to help fellow citizens in need. We will always put our lives on hold at a moment’s notice to make that difference. Being a first responder is incredibly intense, and law enforcement is a profession that has seen its reputation criticized and beaten down in recent years. I would like to see more people team up and support emergency response agencies in their efforts to serve and benefit all fellow citizens in need.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If your plate is full — get a bigger plate.” These words are from Richard Webb, my father, as well as a gifted author.

This quote fits my life virtually in every way. I have been a single working mother of twins for the past 10 years and at one point even attended school as well, where I obtained my Ph.D. People are willing to help if you push yourself. I have been so fortunate to have a great support system. At the end of the day, I must always be the one accountable to myself. I remember as a kid, I was a snow ski racer in Bend, Oregon. My father told me I was going too fast. Well, I didn’t slow down and crashed. Later he came up to me and said, “Well, how are you going to get down the mountain now? You broke a ski and you made the decision to go fast.” I ended up walking down the hill carrying my skis and equipment. My father could have skied down the hill carrying some of my stuff, but it taught me to be independent, handle consequences, and depend on myself.

It was the same after a life-threatening car accident in 2010 when I experienced temporary paralysis. No one was going to fix the situation and give me my legs back. I had great doctors, physical therapists, family support, but it was all on me to try and to fight to walk again. We can only depend on ourselves to make a change.

I prefer to manage everything myself and as a result, I feel like I am able to give 100 percent effort and focus to the task at hand. I’ve decided to stick to that approach, otherwise, it’s not worth it to the other person(s) or interest(s) needing my time and attention.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@FindemScentSafe — Find’em Scent Safe Twitter — Find’em Scent Safe Facebook page — My personal Facebook page

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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